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John Bartlett (1820–1905). Familiar Quotations, 10th ed. 1919.

Pliny the Elder AD 23-AD 79 John Bartlett

    In comparing various authors with one another, I have discovered that some of the gravest and latest writers have transcribed, word for word, from former works, without making acknowledgment.
          Natural History. Book i. Dedication, Sect. 22.
    The world, and whatever that be which we call the heavens, by the vault of which all things are enclosed, we must conceive to be a deity, to be eternal, without bounds, neither created nor subject at any time to destruction. To inquire what is beyond it is no concern of man; nor can the human mind form any conjecture concerning it.
          Natural History. Book ii. Sect. 1.
    It is ridiculous to suppose that the great head of things, whatever it be, pays any regard to human affairs.
          Natural History. Book ii. Sect. 20.
    Everything is soothed by oil, and this is the reason why divers send out small quantities of it from their mouths, because it smooths every part which is rough. 1
          Natural History. Book ii. Sect. 234.
    It is far from easy to determine whether she [Nature] has proved to him a kind parent or a merciless stepmother. 2
          Natural History. Book vii. Sect. 1.
    Man alone at the very moment of his birth, cast naked upon the naked earth, does she abandon to cries and lamentations. 3
          Natural History. Book vii. Sect. 2.
    To laugh, if but for an instant only, has never been granted to man before the fortieth day from his birth, and then it is looked upon as a miracle of precocity. 4
          Natural History. Book vii. Sect. 2.
    Man is the only one that knows nothing, that can learn nothing without being taught. He can neither speak nor walk nor eat, and in short he can do nothing at the prompting of nature only, but weep. 5
          Natural History. Book vii. Sect. 4.
    With man, most of his misfortunes are occasioned by man. 6
          Natural History. Book vii. Sect. 5.
    Indeed, what is there that does not appear marvellous when it comes to our knowledge for the first time? 7 How many things, too, are looked upon as quite impossible until they have been actually effected?
          Natural History. Book vii. Sect. 6.
    The human features and countenance, although composed of but some ten parts or little more, are so fashioned that among so many thousands of men there are no two in existence who cannot be distinguished from one another. 8
          Natural History. Book vii. Sect. 8.
    All men possess in their bodies a poison which acts upon serpents; and the human saliva, it is said, makes them take to flight, as though they had been touched with boiling water. The same substance, it is said, destroys them the moment it enters their throat. 9
          Natural History. Book vii. Sect. 15.
    It has been observed that the height of a man from the crown of the head to the sole of the foot is equal to the distance between the tips of the middle fingers of the two hands when extended in a straight line.
          Natural History. Book vii. Sect. 77.
    When a building is about to fall down, all the mice desert it. 10
          Natural History. Book viii. Sect. 103.
    Bears when first born are shapeless masses of white flesh a little larger than mice, their claws alone being prominent. The mother then licks them gradually into proper shape. 11
          Natural History. Book viii. Sect. 126.
    It is asserted that the dogs keep running when they drink at the Nile, for fear of becoming a prey to the voracity of the crocodile. 12
          Natural History. Book viii. Sect. 148.
    It has become quite a common proverb that in wine there is truth. 13
          Natural History. Book xiv. Sect. 141.
    Cincinnatus was ploughing his four jugera of land upon the Vaticanian Hill,—the same that are still known as the Quintian Meadows,—when the messenger brought him the dictatorship, finding him, the tradition says, stripped to the work.
          Natural History. Book xviii. Sect. 20.
    The agricultural population, says Cato, produces the bravest men, the most valiant soldiers, and a class of citizens the least given of all to evil designs…. A bad bargain is always a ground for repentance.
          Natural History. Book xviii. Sect. 26.
    The best plan is, as the common proverb has it, to profit by the folly of others. 14
          Natural History. Book xviii. Sect. 31.
    Always act in such a way as to secure the love of your neighbour. 15
          Natural History. Book xviii. Sect. 44.
    It is a maxim universally agreed upon in agriculture, that nothing must be done too late; and again, that everything must be done at its proper season; while there is a third precept which reminds us that opportunities lost can never be regained.
          Natural History. Book xviii. Sect. 44.
    The bird of passage known to us as the cuckoo.
          Natural History. Book xviii. Sect. 249.
    Let not things, because they are common, enjoy for that the less share of our consideration.
          Natural History. Book xix. Sect. 59.
    Why is it that we entertain the belief that for every purpose odd numbers are the most effectual? 16
          Natural History. Book xxviii. Sect. 23.
    It was a custom with Apelles, to which he most tenaciously adhered, never to let any day pass, however busy he might be, without exercising himself by tracing some outline or other,—a practice which has now passed into a proverb. 17 It was also a practice with him, when he had completed a work, to exhibit it to the view of the passers-by in his studio, while he himself, concealed behind the picture, would listen to the criticisms…. Under these circumstances, they say that he was censured by a shoemaker for having represented the shoes with one latchet too few. The next day, the shoemaker, quite proud at seeing the former error corrected, thanks to his advice, began to criticise the leg; upon which Apelles, full of indignation, popped his head out and reminded him that a shoemaker should give no opinion beyond the shoes, 18 —a piece of advice which has equally passed into a proverbial saying.
          Natural History. Book xxxv. Sect. 84.
Note 1.
Why does pouring oil on the sea make it clear and calm? Is it for that the winds, slipping the smooth oil, have no force, nor cause any waves?—Plutarch: Natural Questions, ix.

The venerable Bede relates that Bishop Adain (A. D. 651) gave to a company about to take a journey by sea “some holy oil, saying, ‘I know that when you go abroad you will meet with a storm and contrary wind; but do you remember to cast this oil I give you into the sea, and the wind shall cease immediately.’”—Ecclesiastical History, book iii. chap. xiv.

In Sparks’s edition of Franklin’s Works, vol. vi. p. 354, there are letters between Franklin, Brownrigg, and Parish on the stilling of waters by means of oil. [back]
Note 2.
To man the earth seems altogether
No more a mother, but a step-dame rather.
Du Bartas: Divine Weekes and Workes, first week, third day. [back]
Note 3.
He is born naked, and falls a whining at the first.—Robert Burton: Anatomy of Melancholy, part i. sect. 2, mem. 3, subsect. 10.

And when I was born I drew in the common air, and fell upon the earth, which is of like nature; and the first voice which I uttered was crying, as all others do.—The Wisdom of Solomon, vii. 3.

It was the custom among the ancients to place the new-born child upon the ground immediately after its birth. [back]
Note 4.
This term of forty days is mentioned by Aristotle in his Natural History, as also by some modern physiologists. [back]
Note 5.
See Tennyson, Quotation 103. [back]
Note 6.
See Burns, Quotation 6. [back]
Note 7.
Omne ignotum pro magnifico (Everything that is unknown is taken to be grand).—Tacitus: Agricola, 30. [back]
Note 8.
See Sir Thomas Browne, Quotation 7. [back]
Note 9.
Madame d’Abrantes relates that when Bonaparte was in Cairo he sent for a serpent-detecter (Psylli) to remove two serpents that had been seen in his house. He having enticed one of them from his hiding-place, caught it in one hand, just below the jaw-bone, in such a manner as to oblige the mouth to open, when spitting into it, the effect was like magic: the reptile appeared struck with instant death.—Memoirs, vol. i. chap. lix. [back]
Note 10.
This is alluded to by Cicero in his letters to Atticus, and is mentioned by Ælian (Animated Nature, book vi. chap. 41). It is like our proverb, “Rats leave a sinking ship.” [back]
Note 11.
See Burton, Quotation 7.

Not unlike the bear which bringeth forth
In the end of thirty dayes a shapeless birth;
But after licking, it in shape she drawes,
And by degrees she fashions out the pawes,
The head, and neck, and finally doth bring
To a perfect beast that first deformed thing.
Du Bartas: Divine Weekes and Workes, first week, first day. [back]
Note 12.
See Phædrus, Quotation 7. [back]
Note 13.
See Shakespeare, Othello, Quotation 38. [back]
Note 14.
See Publius Syrus, Quotation 11. [back]
Note 15.
A maxim of Cato. [back]
Note 16.
See Shakespeare, The Merry Wives of Windsor, Quotation 34. Also Lover, Quotation 4.

Numero deus impare gaudet (The god delights in odd numbers).—Virgil: Eclogæ, 8, 75. [back]
Note 17.
Nulla dies abeat, quin linea ducta supersit.—Erasmus.

The form generally quoted, “Nulla dies sine linea” (No day without a line), is not attested. [back]
Note 18.
Ne supra crepidam sutor judicaret (Let not a shoemaker judge above his shoe). [back]